“Inheritance:”  Something that is or may be inherited; property passing at the owner’s death to the heir or those entitled to succeed; legacy.  The genetic characters transmitted from parent to offspring, taken collectively.
There are a lot of moving parts in that definition. I have been thinking about inheritance quite a bit lately. I had a large investment portfolio at work that was set up as a remainder trust. Upon the death of the trustee, the proceeds of the trust were to be passed on to three survivors. The interesting aspect of a trust account like this one is that the beneficiaries of the trust didn’t have to do anything in particular to receive a rather substantial amount of money other than to be a relative of the deceased.
In another case, I have been invited to serve as an investment consultant to the 1impact Community Endowment Fund committee. Quite frankly I was surprised by the number of families [and the dollar amounts] that have decided to make the Church part of their inheritance offering upon their departure from this world when Jesus calls them to their permanent home with Him.
Finally, and most importantly, I was privileged to be by the bedside of a dear woman who passed into eternity surrounded by family. We prayed and read Scripture together [Psalm 23 always brings great comfort during these times] as we grieved our loss but celebrated the sure victory over death that Jesus promised her in her baptism. I would say that this is an inheritance of faith that passed from one generation to the next and the next. Three generations were present in the room.
So how do we view our
inheritance? The first example is a simple transfer of wealth from one person to another. How will it be used? Will the new-found increase be used to consume more of what the world has to offer? I’ve witnessed families torn apart by perceived inequalities on how estates are settled or divorce property is divided. The Bible certainly has many examples of upset heirs “not getting what they deserve.”
In one example, Jesus tells the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. You can read it for yourself, but the central arc of the story is a son who wanted his money right now even though his father was alive and well! We may shake our heads in disbelief, but how many examples can you think of where a family member has murdered another family member to accelerate the inheritance process through life insurance proceeds or other material benefits? Jesus knows the depths of our sin, especially when greed consumes our lives.
The second example would point to the concept of legacy, when it comes to distributing our inheritance. A legacy of what? I am glad you asked. Look at the words in the Church’s endowment fund: Impact. Community. Fund. All wrapped up in our mission to Connect People to Life in Jesus. The families that have committed to this fund want to leave a legacy of disciple-makers. They want to “fund” our mission -- no, God’s mission -- to “impact” our “communities” by providing
resources to help those in need and equipping our members to fulfill the Great Commission. Now that is a legacy all of us are called by Jesus to leave to future generations until He returns.
You have heard the expression that “All politics is local.” The same could be said for an inheritance of faith. We have made family the core of sharing our faith to each succeeding generation. Deuteronomy 11 is a very sobering word from God about passing on the faith; verses 18-19 make it clear: “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your foreheads as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to and when you are getting up.”
I saw those words in action at the bedside of a Jesus follower entering the gates of heaven. Three generations of faith in our Lord. A legacy that far exceeds the monetary blessings from a wealthy man. A legacy that even exceeds funding a church endowment. Faith, created in baptism, strengthened in hearing and studying God’s Word, assured in the forgiveness of sins in Holy Communion and continually nurtured in a loving family and a faithful community of believers. Now that is a true inheritance!